Highway 6: The history behind the North Carolina Oyster Festival
OCEAN ISLE BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - The Oyster Festival in Ocean Isle Beach draws thousands of people to the island. This year marks the 41st rendition of the festival, and Mayor Debbie Smith reflects on its roots in southern Brunswick County.
Smith says the festival was first held at the airstrip in Ocean Isle Beach, inside of an airplane hangar.
“It was just local volunteers that put it on [and] cooked oysters,” Smith said. “They invited vendors to come, I don’t remember having a lot of them there but it was a fun time.”
Since then, the festival has moved around the county’s beach towns before eventually finding its home in Ocean Isle Beach again. Smith says the focus goes beyond oysters and stretches to those who call Ocean Isle Beach home.
“Well, there certainly is not as much tourism in October as there is in the summertime,” said Smith. “Of course, you can’t get Oysters in October in North Carolina very easily either. So, it does bring people in for the weekend, [it] brings a lot of homeowners in.”
More visitors also means more opportunities for local businesses. Daniel Abushakra owns Brynn Elizabeth Jewelers in Ocean Isle Beach and looks forward to showing of his work.
“It is great, particularly this year, there’s so many new people moving to the area, that is a great way to get our name out,” Abushakra said. “And that way, they know we’re here. We’re a small store, but there’s a lot of talent that works here.”
Abushakra has been tasked, once again, with making a commemorative oyster-shaped pendant for this year’s festival. The oyster providing the model for this year’s piece was found in Ocean Isle Beach. He hopes that just like jewelry, the annual tradition of the oyster festival will continue for generations.
“It’s always nice to be a part of doing something that’s going to last,” Abushakra said. “You know, I see people in here that their great-grandparents wore and it’s stuff that’s been given to them since they were kids. So, it’s stuff that last a long time.”
To learn more about the North Carolina Oyster Festival, click here.
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